Oatmeal? Helping an Upset Child

A story about my daughter, Elizabeth, who had just recovered from a broken arm and several other medical interventions in the period right before this incident.

One morning my four year old daughter got very upset during a fairly routine breakfast, suddenly rejecting a bowl of oatmeal, one of her favorite foods.

As Elizabeth’s time eating oatmeal was ordinarily a calm and enjoyable part of our morning routine, I was surprised as she started to complain about all the parts of her meal that were just not right. Attempting to calm her down, I cleaned the side of the bowl, took out some of the oats, got fresh milk and offered a new spoon, responding as best as I could to what she was telling me needed to be changed. Each of my attempts brought greater outrage and frustration.

After several more futile gestures to correct the problem I finally gave up and stared in disbelief at my now hysterical child. Overwhelmed and bewildered it took me a few minutes to wonder if Elizabeth had something on her mind having little to do with oatmeal.

Putting down my boxes of cereal alternatives, I squatted next to her chair and stopped responding to her every whim. Convincing myself that a new approach might be worth a try, I apologized that the oatmeal was not quite right and watched as she got more and more agitated.

Pushing the bowl aside, she started to cry, mixing huge tears with the screams of a temper tantrum, directing all her wrath at the now much hated mush. I did everything I could to stay calm (not at all easy) and tried to remember that this was probably one of those times when Elizabeth. had something to get off her chest.

She kept going for what seemed like an eternity, but was probably more like 10 minutes.

Just when I was about to give up listening and try something else, she let out a final scream, looked up and dried her eyes.

“Mom,” she said alertly, “Where is Doctor Mann?”

Even my verbal daughter rarely gave me a clue about possible underlying causes for a temper tantrum but I was grateful for this peek into the reasons for this last 10 minutes of mayhem.

“He’s probably at the hospital.” I said, “maybe fixing somebody else’s broken arm.”

Nodding her head to show she understood, I watched her run into the living room with typical flair.

I was drained but happy as I watched her go.